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The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Bucket List


Are you living the life you want to live?

A couple years ago, I was sitting on the beach in Thaliand with my husband gearing up to play with a local baby elephant. Suddenly my husband got an alert on his phone. He was silent for a few minutes while peering intently at the screen. Worried something might be wrong, I asked him, “What’s going on? Everything ok?” He laughed and said, “Do you want to go to Dubai?”

Amazingly, Etihad Air (the official airline of United Arab Emirates) had posted an error in their fare pricing. Instead of a $2,140 round-trip ticket price, someone had forgotten the “4” and posted a $210 round-trip airfare! This is a ridiculous price for getting across the world. We had mere moments to jump on it before the error was corrected by the system. I had never been to Dubai or even that part of the world, but my husband and I had vowed to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and take as many adventure trips as we can before having kids. Specifically, we have agreed to live a regret-free life.

I took a deep breath and went with my gut. “Let’s book it.”

5 months later we had arrived in the magical city that is Dubai:

Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

We spent seven days exploring the United Arab Emirates and checking off multiple bucket list items. We trekked through the desert:

bucket list

We went to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa:

Burj Khalifa view

We visited beautiful mosques in Abu Dhabi, the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque:

Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque

And, of course, we sandboarded:

sandboarding, bucket list

Now it’s your turn.

What are you waiting for?

I want to help you create your bucket list and start executing the amazing items you have been dying to try.

Bucket List: A list of all the things you want to try, goals you want to achieve and life experiences you want to have before you die.

Challenge Accepted: I’m ready to create my bucket list @vvanedwards! click to tweet   

I think everyone should have a Bucket List or a “To Experience” list. Here’s why:

  • Bucket lists make you stop and think what you actually want to experience in this lifetime.
  • Bucket lists remind you that life is short and we should live it to its fullest.
  • Bucket lists increase our happiness because they give us both hope and curiosity (2 essential ingredients for happiness).

Step 1: Dreamstorm

The first thing you can do to create your bucket list is to dreamstorm–this is a combination of dreaming and brainstorming. Take out a piece of paper or open a new document and set aside at least 15 minutes to put all of your ideas into writing. Here’s the key:

Remove all limits.

The most important part of dreamstorming is allowing your mind to be as free as possible. Step One is all about putting down every. single. idea. that pops into your head. It’s not crazy, it’s not impossible, it’s not silly–just put it down! You are not allowed to edit for feasibility or possibility in dreamstorming. When you let your brain and mind free, it’s amazing what ideas will come out. Ready? Go!

Step 2: Time List

Next it’s time to break-up your list by time. This is crucial because otherwise your bucket list could languish in your computer or desk drawer without ever getting done because it feels too long and overwhelming. You are going to look at all of the items on your list and figure out if they are short-term, long-term or special term. Here are the categories you can consider using:

  • Summer Bucket List: Are there items you think you can get done this summer or next? For example, this summer I hope to go berry picking at a local farm, paint a Jacopo Dal Ponte picture, learn how to grow tomatoes, eat at all of the PDX Eater restaurants and design a dress.
  • 20s / 30s /40s Bucket List: What do you want to achieve before you hit your next birthday milestone? I just turned 30 and wrote a whole list of lessons I learned in my 20s. Now I am working on my 30s bucket list!
  • City Bucket List: Are you living in a city temporarily or new to a place? What do you want to achieve in your location? My husband and I urban nomaded for 2 years taste-testing different cities around the world for 1 to 3 months each. We had bucket lists for each location and it was an amazing way to see each place!
  • College / High School / Certification Bucket List: What do you want to get done before you are done with school? Perhaps you are in a temporary job or certification program? What do you want to achieve?
  • 2017 / 2018 / 2019 Bucket List: You can also break your bucket list into years. This is great to think about along with resolutions and goals. However, don’t wait until the end of the year to do this! For big bucket list items like travel or learning, you often have to save up money, book flights or coordinate plans more than a year in advance. So, think about your next year bucket list right now to start to prepare.

Step 3: Partner in Joy

You don’t have to do this, but after sharing and comparing you might want to consider asking someone to be your bucket list buddy, your partner in joy or your to-do list teammate ( I love coming up with fun titles). You don’t have to do your entire list with someone, but you can have certain items shared with someone else. For example, it is helpful to have similar items to spouses or travel buddies so you can do things together. I would highly recommend trying to partner up for the bigger costly activities to split expenses and get accountability in planning.

Step 4: TOP Three

Creating your bucket list is almost as fun as completing your bucket list! Now it’s time to turn some of those dreams into reality. it can be overwhelming to look at your long list and think about how and when you will complete them all–don’t worry this is the BEST problem to have. I want you to pick 3 items to work on planning. Yup, just 3 right now. More than that and it becomes too much to think about. Here’s how to pick the TOP Three:

  • What excites you most? Scan your list and take note of the items that give you a little rush or when you think of them your blood starts to pump.
  • What has a time limit? Is there anything that you need to do soon because of a time limit? For example, I want to go berry picking this summer and berries are only in-season for a few weeks so I need to get that on the calendar

Once you pick your 3, it’s time to start the first steps of planning. Basically:

  • Who: Are you flying solo or do you need a partner in joy to join?
  • When: When does this need to happen? What time of day? Weekend or weekday? Get specific!
  • Where: Where do you need to go and how do you get there? Do you need to book transport ahead of time like a ticket or car?
  • How: How do you complete this item? How much money do you need to save up?
  • (Most Important) What: What do you need to do to make this happen? What is your very first step? Now do it.

This list will help you complete every single bucket list item. You can also use an online tool like: BucketList.Org or a to-do list software like Evernote or Asana.

What are your top 3? Tell me! click to tweet

Step 5: Who, When, Where & How Much?

After you’ve picked up on which ones excite you, narrow down to your top three by asking yourself these questions:

  • What items has a time limit?
    • Are there any items that you need to start soon because of time constraints?
  • Who is doing it with you?
    • Do they require special accommodations?
  • Where is it?
    • Do you need to arrange travel ahead of time?
  • How much does it cost?
    • How long will it take you to save up the funds?

Using those questions, you can decide which bucket list item you can make your number one and start right away and which ones require more time. Once you’ve chosen your top three, it’s time to begin planning. Be as specific as possible and anticipate potential problems so when the time comes to make your memories you can focus on enjoying the moment without facing last-minute issues.

Step 6: Never-Ending

This might sound odd, but the goal of your bucket list is not to finish it. It’s to keep it growing. The best lists are constantly changing–you are adding items and checking off items you have completed. Keep the never-ending bucket list mentality to live a regret-free life. See the world through the lens bucket list–what do I want to do in my lifetime? What can I savor and celebrate once I have completed an item?

There are two ways to keep your bucket list up-to-date:

  1. Keep a copy on your phone so you can add new items when inspiration strikes.
  2. Revisit your bucket list every time you cross off an item. It’s a great time to add new ideas and decide if you want to continuing pursuing your current top three or change it up.

Bonus: Get Inspiration

Sometimes our brains can’t even imagine half of the fun things that we could do. Getting inspiration for your bucket list makes it more complete. This step is especially important if you had trouble dreamstorming or coming up with ideas in Step #1. Here is my bucket list. Maybe it will give you some ideas for your own:

  1. Go to a drive-in movie
  2. Learn to play the banjo
  3. Go to Harry Potter World
  4. Rent a House Boat with friends
  5. Be a redhead
  6. Learn to drive stick shift
  7. Make my own perfume
  8. Visit every continent
  9. Make homemade pasta
  10. Take harp lessons
  11. Go to a nude beach (and be nude)
  12. Go to an Olympic Event
  13. Go on a cruise down the Nile River
  14. Hang Glide
  15. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  16. Go to an auction at Christies or Sotheby
  17. Go somewhere with zero gravity
  18. Go on a Safari
  19. Stay in an over-the-water bungalow on a tropical island
  20. Be in a flash mob
  21. Break a world record
  22. Go on a yoga retreat
  23. Visit all 50 US states

Another great way to get inspired is by using Pinterest. There are some amazing bucket list boards you can peruse:

bucket list, Pinterest

 

Share your first 3 bucket list items with me right NOW! click to tweet   

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About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & lead investigator at her human behavior research lab, Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: Use Science to Succeed with People was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. She writes a monthly Science of Success column for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. As a professional people watcher her unique work has been featured in CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Business Insider and more. Vanessa leads innovative soft skills trainings for Fortune 500 companies including Google, Dove, Facebook, Intel, MillerCoors and American Express.


17 Comments


    1. Danielle McRae

      Thanks for reading, Ritu! I bet Israel was amazing. That’s on my list!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  1. Nienke Krook

    I always love adding things to my own bucket list (I have one about travel on my own website), but reading them from other people inspires me as well! Thanks for sharing this one!

  2. Sarah

    I wish. I’d have to save for years to do one thing! I used to be so optimistic but having to save for months and months (more like a year) just to finally afford a car and that will take us into 2017 we will never get anywhere… Oh to rent a jet ski and lie on a beach.. maybe when I’m 50 lol loving all your pics though you’ve lived your life amazingly 🙂

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  4. Shelly

    Hi Vanessa!
    Can’t believe I missed this post last year! These are great tips. I do most of them and find them very effective, especially prioritizing my top list items. We have many in common too. I’m planning on posting a resource page in the future, and this will definitely be included. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Shelly

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  8. Bren Murphy

    H Vanessa,
    I was inspired to write a bucket list after a friend’s diagnosis with tumors. Having a bucket list has been genuinely hard for me to write and I have confronted some things in my life that I struggled with. Now, I have some more clarity and focus so I can actually go do this and bring the changes to my life. Here goes…
    Thanks
    Bren

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  12. Raquel R.

    You are an amazing writer! I am so happy I came across your work. You are very inspirational and motivating! Thank you for the great post!

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